SYNKD West Summer 2023

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INDUSTRY LEADER Art of the Yard | INSIDE California Greenhouses | TUSCANY IN SEDONA JSL Landscape | BACKYARD PARADISE BL Landscapes | TRANSFORMING LANDSCAPES Tree of Life Landscapes | TOPIARY AS THERAPY Mike Gibson | UTILIZE MARKETING Dylan Harper Summer 2023 $9.99 USD WEST

Mark Your Calenders for #SYNKDLIVE2024

DATE: FEBRUARY 14–15, 2024


At SYNKD Live I was surrounded by like-minded people from the industry that were there with the common goal of learning. The environment was infectious & I walked away feeling a new clarity about where our business should go next & how to get there.



Summer has arrived, and we are thrilled to welcome you to this exciting edition of our landscaping magazine! SYNKD has been buzzing with activity, just like your busy lives. We’ve been hard at work, finding new and innovative ways to connect with you and share the latest trends and insights in the industry.

First things first, have you heard the great news?

We’ve launched our brand new podcast, SYNKD On Air! Get ready to be entertained and inspired as we bring you lively discussions and expert advice. Tune in live every Monday at 11 AM ET on Turf’s Up Radio, or catch up at your convenience on-demand wherever you enjoy your favorite podcasts. It’s the perfect way to stay connected and in the know.

But that’s not all—we’ve been busy building an educational powerhouse for you on our website. Introducing our CEU and educational webinar section! We’ve gathered the live talks from our recent event and added even more informative sessions. Dive into the world of hiring strategies, leadership mastery, the nuts and bolts of running your business, selecting the best products and harnessing the latest technology. We believe in the power of continuous learning, and these webinars are just the beginning of a transformative conversation.

Now, mark your calendars because we have something truly exceptional in store for you. Save the date for our highly anticipated SYNKD Live event, taking place from February 13–15, 2024, in vibrant Atlanta, Georgia. This time, we’re expanding to a thrilling 3-day program packed with captivating talks, invaluable networking opportunities and, of course, plenty of fun! We’re even organizing exciting social events to ensure an unforgettable experience. Stay tuned for more details— it’s an event you won’t want to miss!

SYNKD , we’re committed to bringing you the newest and the best products and services on the market. Our expo is a treasure trove of innovation and excellence, where you can discover cutting-edge solutions and stay ahead of the game. As a special token of appreciation for your loyal readership, we’re delighted to offer you an exclusive discount. Use the promo code READ30 to save a fantastic 30% on any ticket type for the upcoming SYNKD Live event. It’s our way of saying thank you for your continued support.

Before we wrap up, we have a small favor to ask. Your feedback is incredibly valuable to us. We put in tremendous effort to curate this publication, and we want to ensure it’s everything you’ve ever wished for. If you’re enjoying our content and want to see more exciting products

and services featured, we’d love to hear from you. Share your testimonial about the publication and how it connects different sectors. Together, we can show advertisers that our community is vibrant and engaged, inspiring them to invest in the incredible opportunities we present. Drop a line at , and let your voice be heard.

Thank you for being an integral part of our community. Get ready to embark on a summer filled with growth, inspiration, and remarkable discoveries. SYNKD is here to guide you on your journey to landscaping excellence.

Wishing you a fantastic season ahead!

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USE CODE SCAN September|October 2022 4 synkd | our community SUMMER 2023 VOLUME 1 ISSUE 4 For Latest Content, To View Digital Issues & To Find Out About Upcoming Events, Visit and follow us on these social media platforms: CONTENTS COVER STORY TUSCANY IN SEDONA John Leslie, owner of JSL Landscape Design Build, transforms a desert property into a Tuscany paradise in Arizona. 28 inspirational works our community 08 10 12 News Industry News and Dates to Save Q+A What are you planning on or already doing for a better business? Industry Leader Art of the Yard Mini Interviews Fun questions from our audience Defining Success Deborah Cole Deborah Cole Connections Part I & Part II Angelica & Matt Norton Open Envelope Studios 20 23 24 INSIDE CALIFORNIA GREENHOUSES 16 323 Polk Street Lafayette, Louisiana 70501 OWNER/MANAGING DIRECTOR Angelique Robb (337) 852–6318 ADVERTISING & TRADE SHOW COORDINATOR Aimee Almaguer (337) 789–0769 GRAPHIC DESIGNER Caitlyn Wallace SUBEDITOR Erin Z. Bass WRITTERS Jada Babcock |pg 33 & 41 Laura Lee |pg 12 & 44 CONTRIBUTORS Deborah Cole |pgs 23 Angelica & Matt Norton |pg 24 & 25 Jay Worth |pg 47 Dylan Harper |pg 50 PRINTED BY Allen Press Inc. Published by © SYNKD SYNKD is published four times a year and distributed to 5,000 qualified members of the green industry. Postmaster: Send address changes to 323 Polk St., Lafayette, LA 70501. SYNKD verifies information as much as possible. The views expressed by editorial contributors and the products advertised herein are not necessarily endorsements of the publishers. Reproduction of any part of this magazine is strictly forbidden.
www. synkd .io 5 September|October 2022 synkd | our community @synkd.landscape @synkd_landscape @synkd-landscape raise the bar 42 44 47 50 The Healing Art of Topiary Mike Gibson Gibson Works LLC At the School Yard Bruce Allentuck My Landscape Academy Utilize Marketing During an Uncertain Economy Dylan Harper Forge Marketing Group What is Change Management & Why Do I Care? Jay Worth SingleOps @SYNKD On Air 44 42 36 32 Transforming Landscapes Tree of Life Landscapes Backyard Paradise BL Landscapes 32 36
October 17-20 in Louisville, Kentucky REGISTER TODAY! Equip Expo gives you and your crew a chance to try out the newest products for your business, network with other professionals, and learn the industry’s latest trends first-hand. Where the Landscape Changes CO-LOCATED WITH Register by July 31 and you could win big! September|October 2022 2 synkd | our community our community INSIDE OUR COMMUNITY THIS MONTH PAGE 8 INDUSTRY NEWS | PAGE 10 Q+A: WHAT ARE YOU PLANNING ON DOING OR ALREADY DOING TO DO ‘BETTER BUSINESS’? | PAGE 12 INDUSTRY LEADER: ART OF THE YARD | PAGE 16 INSIDE CALIFORNIA GREENHOUSES | PAGE 20 MINI INTERVIEWS | PAGE 23 DEBORAH COLE: DEFINING SUCCESS | PAGE 24 ANGELICA & MATT NORTON: PART I & PART II WEST



The National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) has announced its board of directors and new association president for the 2023-24 term. Brandon Sheppard from Weed Man will be the president of the association. Other board members include Beth Berry, Nick Brummel, Dan Carrothers, Warren Gorowitz, Doug McDuff and Teddy Russell. The officers for the term are Pam Dooley as president-elect, Roscoe Klausing as secretary/treasurer and Mike Bogan as immediate past president. The board consists of individuals from various landscaping and related companies such as Advanced Turf Solutions, Brummel Lawn & Landscape, FMC and others.


Level up your skills with SYNKD’s series of on-demand webinars. We cover a diverse range of topics, offering valuable insights, practical strategies and expert guidance to propel your career and business to new

heights. From soil sciences to business best practices, our webinars are specifically designed for peers, by peers. Visit our website to begin earning your credits! SYNKD West Summer 2023 8 synkd | our community



Discover the captivating Introduction to Landscape Design course by visionary Pearce Butcher on Unleash your creativity as you explore Butcher’s 14 lessons and 26 additional resources, available in eight languages. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a homeowner with a passion for design, this course is tailored for you. Scan the QR code below and embark on an extraordinary journey where imagination meets innovation, transforming outdoor spaces into breathtaking masterpieces. Join Butcher and elevate your landscape design skills today.


Bobbie Burdick, CPLD, from Burdick & Associates in Ellsworth, Maine, emerges as the well-deserved winner of the prestigious 2022 Designer of the Year Award presented by the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD). With her artistic touch, Burdick was entrusted by a couple who owned a century-old cottage nestled on their picturesque coastal property. The challenge? Revitalize the house while seamlessly integrating the surrounding environment.

Burdick’s team orchestrated the entire

transformation, from conceptualization to collaborating with an architect for the structure, landscaping, grading, plant installations and stunning renderings. Scan the QR code below to discover more about the captivating journey that earned Burdick this esteemed accolade.

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Floriculture/Seasonal Color Design and Installation is about creativity, color and structure by pairing the best available variety of plants from my growers. To achieve this goal, I design annual beds and containers with this is mind to create designs that will thrive all season long, fall or spring.

First I collaborate with my local growers before each season to find out about any new and improved flower variety introductions I have to work with. Designing and pairing the right plants with like needs is extremely important in the success of my designs that will provide inspiring and beautiful color combinations.

Secondly, communicating with my vendors about availability and timing makes my process easier so I know when I can begin the design process and what I have to work with. Installing too early or too late can be detrimental to the success of the installation process.

Keeping up with weather conditions is extremely important on the timing to start the installation process, too early. Plants are too small and can be affected by cold, start too late, heat is a factor. We have a six to eight-week window for installation in order to ensure success.

Communication with my customers in advance of the upcoming season helps ensure they get the designs and plants they requested. I place my orders in advance with my growers, since availability is day to day because all my competitors use the same growers. Staying in touch with industry trends, new plant introductions, improved amendments and installation techniques will help improve the customer experience.

Lastly, using social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and the Next Door app has greatly improved my exposure by posting my projects in real time and running ads to create more business. Its all about flowerpower! SYNKD West Summer 2023 10

A key component of 3.Fromme Design’s business strategy has been finding ways to pursue larger scale and richly complex projects while being a one-person firm. My true passion is integrating artistry, plants and the visitor experience into compelling spatial experiences—not the day-to-day operation and management of a large design firm.

The ongoing creative relationship with Chris Barkley and his team at HDLA has been a spectacular success. 3.Fromme Design and HDLA’s skillsets are exceptionally complimentary; our collaborative ethos with clients is the same; and we each deeply appreciate what the other brings to every project. The trick has involved keeping our firm’s individual identities while becoming a seamlessly unified team with a shared brand.

We rolled out a clear career path for the field. With all the labor wage increases, we wanted something tangible to hold on to, a way to be competitive in our market, and simultaneously add value to our team. We attached each increase to a skills chart ranking so if someone comes to me wanting more money, my response can be, “Great! I want you to have the opportunity for more money! Let’s see where you are on the skills chart.” That usually leads to a conversation of the skills we need that person to improve on to get to the next level of pay and we put a plan of action into place to make that happen. We have four levels of crew member progression and three levels of crew leader. This system gives opportunities for growth without feeling like the only way forward is an office job.

This Spring, our Construction Department brought concrete installation in-house which has allowed us to be more responsive to our clients and keep projects on schedule due to not relying on subcontractor’s unreliable schedules. This new offering was largely due to hiring a Project Manager who had owned their own concrete company for many years and investing in training for many of our crews. These crews can now perform all sorts of decorative and specialty concrete elements which has been seeing lots of growth due to the Modern landscape trend. We also feel that the ability to self-perform more work and being able to offer a wider variety of services help us better prepare for any economic turbulence.

We recently implemented a new software— Aspire—to better run our business. We needed better visibility of our performance and feedback on estimated vs. actual for our jobs. It wasn’t an easy transition as it can be very disruptive and expensive, but we knew the end results would be worth the pain. I encourage all businesses, regardless of size, to lean into software and what it can do to help you run your business better—operationally, financially and in service to your customers. Do this, and then still realize that it is a tool. Do not be servant to the software, use it to improve the way you operate and serve your clients.

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Tres Fromme Claire Goldman Jake Leman Nate Moses Principal & Founder of 3.Fromme Design Sanford, Florida Principal at R & R Landscaping Auburn, Alabama Vice President of Singing Hills Landscape Inc. Aurora, Colorado
Owner of Precision Landscape Management Greenville, South Carolina


A Colorado Company Shares Business Lessons & Water Feature Techniques

Shane Hemphill was just 19 years old when he started his first landscaping business, a retail garden center specializing in outdoor water features. While his business didn’t last long, the experience he gained led him to where he is today.

“I swore after that I’d never have my own business,” he recalls.

With time and experience, Shane eventually changed his mind. After working with Heath Webb at another landscaping company for several years, they decided to start something of their own. In 2010, Art of the Yard was born, and Shane was back in business. Today, the partners employ a team of 16 at their Littleton, Colorado, company where they’re creating incredible landscapes and raking in the awards.

“I knew the things that I messed up on, the things I didn’t do right and the things I could do better. So the second time around, I know how to approach things differently,” Shane says.

Art of the Yard is a full-service landscaping company specializing in design, construction and maintenance, with niche expertise in water features, which Shane and Heath have always been drawn to. For the past three consecutive years they’ve been named “Water Artisans of the Year” by POND Trade Magazine. Their exquisite work blends seamlessly into the Colorado landscape, providing an outdoor oasis for clients, with koi ponds, custom water elements and natural swimming holes alongside outdoor kitchens and beautiful back yards.

“The biggest key for us when we were starting out is not only knowing your strengths, but knowing what your weaknesses are and then finding people to handle those weaknesses,” Shane says. “For example, hiring an office manager so that we could work in the field. The busier we got, the less time we had for the office, and that can hurt you. We love building and creating, not being burdened by the paperwork and taxes and all the business stuff.”

Shane has also gotten out of his comfort zone to learn and master the sales and marketing efforts that come with owning and growing a business.

“I can build a patio and I can build a pond, but selling it was a whole different thing,” he says. “And I’m a bit of an introvert so it was tough sometimes to open up to people and share my vision.”

Another business challenge is the pricing and estimation. “Clients think it’s so simple,” Shane says. “If you’re putting in a little bit of sod, for example, they see that SYNKD West Summer 2023 12 synkd | our community
Looking back, failing at a business was tremendously beneficial because it was such a learning tool.
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it should take a couple of hours. The client thinks that’s worth a few hundred bucks, and that it’s going straight in my pocket, but that doesn’t cover those overhead expenses that you have to have to maintain the company.”

Over the years, Shane has gained more confidence in pricing projects and knowing what they’re worth, as laborers, designers, craftsmen and artists’ work adds value. To that end, he’s worked hard to create a culture of creative freedom for his team. SYNKD West Summer 2023 14
I want them to not only create products that are going to work , but express themselves , share their vision & make real art .

Because of the positive culture Shane and his partner Heath have built, Art of the Yard has employed many of its team members for years. To reward their top performers, they have offered them a 5 percent stake in the company.

Art of the Yard has become a model for other landscapers too, especially in creating water features. “We’ve got a lot of guys reaching out to us now,” Shane says. “That really feels good to be at that mentorship side of things.”

Shane, himself, had a mentor in the late Tom Trench, a designer who was extraspecial to the company. Helping others is a way to continue his legacy. “Tom was there since the beginning and helped us come together as our company,” says Shane. After losing Tom, and after another subcontractor moved away, they decided to hire their own in-house designer.

“Constantly pivoting is a big part of owning a business,” he says.

For the future, Shane wants to work collaboratively with contractors in other areas of the country and train them on Art of the Yard’s water feature techniques. He’s also starting an organization called the Outdoor Living Collective.

“We’re going to have a group of contractors that get together, talk about difficulties or things that really worked well,” Shane says. “It’s important to have a good group who help elevate each other.

GET IN TOUCH WITH Shane Hemphill

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Managing inventory as a wholesale plant supplier is no easy feat. The traditional methods of tracking stock levels, placing orders and updating inventory records can be incredibly time-consuming for staff. The repercussions of this inefficiency extend beyond the company itself, affecting customers as well. Landscapers struggle with inaccurate purchasing lists for project planning, while retailers find themselves uncertain about securing enough merchandise to meet their needs.


Journey of Innovation & Customer-Centricity


Recognizing the urgent need for change, California Greenhouses, a prominent plant wholesaler, embarked on a transformative journey. They realized their outdated paper-based processes were no longer sustainable. The catalyst for this realization came during the pandemic when delays and shortages ran rampant. With their plant inventory constantly fluctuating, the dedicated staff had to update website listings multiple times a day just to maintain a semblance of accuracy. SYNKD West Summer 2023 16

operations at California Greenhouses, vividly recalls witnessing customers’ frustration as they attempted to place orders. Fulfillment rates plummeted to 70-80 percent, a scenario that was far from ideal. Determined to improve this situation, Chris and his team set their sights on 90 percent fulfillment accuracy and, ultimately, an ambitious goal of 95 percent was achieved.

The journey of California Greenhouses is a testament to their unwavering commitment to excellence. From its humble beginnings in 1973, when Chris’ parents, Mark and Carol Stansbury, sold houseplants out of the back of their van, the company has grown by leaps and bounds. In 1980, they opened their first storefront, specializing in wholesale tropical and interior plants, cacti, containers and accessories for garden centers, interiorscapers and landscapers. Over time, they expanded their reach, delivering their offerings to clients across California, Arizona, Nevada, Washington, Oregon and even further afield, with pallets of materials traversing the entire country.

Joining the family business after completing college, Chris faced a unique challenge. It was the height of California’s three-year drought and great recession from 2007 to 2009, and the need for drought-tolerant plants was more pressing than ever. Responding to this demand, California Greenhouses established a subsidiary company, OC Succulents, focusing on succulents—an ideal choice for the arid conditions of Southern California. These resilient plants not only helped combat the effects of the drought, but also gained popularity among landscapers and interiorscapers seeking low-maintenance options.

Understanding the importance of customer feedback, California Greenhouses has consistently evolved its product offerings. They have honed in on tried-and-true plant varieties in sizes that landscapers require for installations. Chris knows that his landscaping customers seek robust plants that can

thrive year after year, so they have thoughtfully eliminated varieties that failed to meet these criteria. With cacti, houseplants and succulents as their primary offerings, California Greenhouses empowers landscapers to craft lush landscapes teeming with texture, color and captivating shapes.

Staying competitive in a rapidly evolving industry has always been a top priority for California Greenhouses. Before extending their inventory system to wholesale customers, they spent five years perfecting an internal solution. This system enables them to mitigate the risks of overstocking or understocking by accurately tracking inventory levels. Furthermore, it empowers them to optimize their inventory based on frequent purchases and minimize excess stock of plants that do not sell well.

The impact of this technological leap was immediate and far-reaching. Garden centers now possess precise knowledge of their available space and the number

of plants required to fill it, particularly during weekend sales or special promotions. By ensuring that orders can be fulfilled to a higher degree—rather than leaving empty shelves—California Greenhouses bolsters the success of its customers. In essence, their customers’ triumphs become their own.

As the 2023 Garden Trends Report from the Garden Media Group attests, customers increasingly seek retailers with robust e-commerce options. This trend motivates businesses like California Greenhouses to embrace new sales strategies. As digital natives become buyers and business owners, they gravitate toward companies that wholeheartedly embrace technology, especially when it grants them greater flexibility. California Greenhouses recognizes the shifting landscape and strives to meet the expectations of this emerging generation.

“We get orders at 5:00 in the morning or 10:00 at night. People can order

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whenever they want. We’re no longer tethered to that nine-to-five relationship,” Chris affirms. “I can’t serve 100 customers, but the website can.”

One concern often raised in the green industry is that adopting technology may lead to staff reductions. However, the inventory management system employed by Chris and his team proves otherwise. While it still requires data entry, this process is significantly less laborious, freeing up valuable time for the staff. Liberated from repetitive and timeconsuming tasks, employees can now contribute their talents and expertise in other meaningful capacities.

Technology is a game-changer for businesses, empowering them with tools to elevate customer service to unprecedented levels. With each passing advancement, companies must embrace new ways of enhancing their operations and maintaining a competitive edge. Taking inspiration from direct-toconsumer brands, Chris envisions adding automation tools that notify customers of plant availability via email or text alerts. However, he understands the importance of allowing customers to customize their notification preferences. Just as retailers like Target or Trader Joe’s differentiate themselves by providing personalized experiences, California Greenhouses aims to offer a seamless and tailored purchasing journey. By facilitating ease of purchase, they make it effortless for consumers to choose them.

“I don’t know why anybody wouldn’t want to automate processes. It reduces so much back and forth, and it saves so much manual time,” Chris says.

In 2022, California Greenhouses expanded their services to offer direct shipping to customers in neighboring states like Oregon, Washington and Arizona. This strategic move allowed them to reach a wider audience and share their exceptional plant offerings beyond California’s borders. Now, landscapers, retailers and plant enthusiasts in these regions can conveniently access California Greenhouses’ high-quality plants, benefiting from their expertise and commitment to customer satisfaction.

The story of California Greenhouses is an inspiring tale of transformation and customer-centricity. Their dedication to innovation and continuous improvement has revolutionized their operations, fostering a more efficient and delightful

experience for both their staff and customers. In an industry driven by passion and a profound love for nature, California Greenhouses stands tall as a shining example of what can be achieved when technology and a customer-first mindset merge harmoniously. As they forge ahead, they remain committed to nurturing thriving partnerships, cultivating captivating landscapes and sowing the seeds of a greener and brighter future. SYNKD West Summer 2023 18
Chris Stansbury
of Operations at California Greenhouses
the QR code to sign up to become a wholesale customer!
The customers who have embraced it absolutely love it. I’ve noticed they buy from us more & more frequently .

DROP, MOW & GO INTO THE Future of Landscaping

Meet Nexmow, the world’s first Wireless Commercial Robotic Lawn Mower made by URSROBOT, Inc. The Nexmow is equipped with unique features: wireless boundary creation using 4G & RTK technologies, fleet deployment of up to 10 robot mowers in one location, AI mowing patterns (the first with striped mowing), and a swappable lithium-ion battery that gets up to 6 hours of run time.

When we say the Nexmow M1 is wireless we mean completely wireless. There are no wires to bury in the ground or charging stations. Nor do you need to install an RTK beacon station. Since we use commercialgrade RTK we can connect our Nexmow mowers to multiple RTK stations during mapping and mowing operation for greater accuracy, redundancy and stable operation. Because Nexmow site maps are stored in the cloud and we use a nationwide RTK network, you can operate a fleet of Nexmow mowers across the country.

Nexmow is designed to Drop, Mow and Go from site-to-site by a professional landscaper. Integrating an eCrew (fleet) of robot mowers into your operation allows your team to drop robot mowers and focus on more important tasks.

Nexmow mowers are linked to the cloud and store important mowing data to assist you in route scheduling, provide mowing and emission saving reports.

Nexmow robot mowers are available for sale through authorized dealers such as SiteOne Landscape Supply, Pape Machinery, Gardenland Power Equipment, B&M Lawn & Garden, Automated Outdoor Solutions and more.

To learn more about Nexmow visit and sign up for a demo or webinar, or call us at (866) 639–6691.

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Adam Heard Brian Linson

What inspired you to get into the industry? I believe that the gap between what is needed to steward and care for the urban forest and what is currently being provided by the industry needed to be bridged, I believed I could help be a part of that process.

What’s the best part of your job?

One of my greatest pleasures in my job is when I watch that “click” happen in a client’s experience where they learn something new and see tree care in a new way that makes great service and working with highly knowledgeable professionals a necessity.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced professionally?

Learning how to navigate being a full-time single dad of three amazing daughters, while also performing at an executive level in sales.

What’s the best advice you have received for your career?

Learn how to say “no” and don’t ever let my career happen at the expense of my peace and happiness.

What is something not many people know about you?

I’m a triplet.

What inspired you to get into the industry? I have been enthralled with everything landscape-related from a very young age. My love began with plantings. Studying their growth habits and being awed by their incredible beauty. That love evolved over the past 35 years into a passion for design and installation of complete landscape packages.

What’s your favorite place you’ve ever visited?

I would be hard-pressed to pick my favorite place I’ve ever visited, however, the Portland and Seattle Japanese gardens are definitely at the top of my list.

What’s the one thing that would make the industry better?

More comradery. Sharing knowledge and techniques with each other helps grow the industry and our standards.

What’s the key to great design?

A beautiful balance of aesthetics and function. Colors, textures, sight lines, sounds and scents all come together to invoke a feeling of relaxation and enjoyment. Add in functionality, and you’ve got a winning combination.

What has the quarantine taught you? Adaptability is key to survival. SYNKD West Summer 2023 20 synkd | our community
of Sales, The
Owner/CEO, BL Landscapes Oak Harbor, Washington

What’s the best part of your job? The creative problem-solving aspect. I always describe the industry as an artistic science. The ability to take an idea and turn it into a built reality is a surreal experience.

What’s your favorite place you’ve ever visited?

The Butchart Gardens in Victoria B.C. That place is absolutely stunning! So many colors, the attention to detail, just everything about it is done so well and the maintenance is immaculate.

What would you blow your money on? Building my dream residence. I have had this vision of the place for 10 years now.

What is your favorite phrase, slogan? “Pressure makes diamonds.”

What inspired you to get into the industry? Ever since my childhood, I have loved nature and have been fascinated by the idea of creating art with plants. So, after many challenging years in the advertising and marketing world, I knew I needed to make a career change. I wanted to do something more beneficial with my design skills, to become part of the solution and not continue to be part of the problem.

Where’s your happy place? In bed ... or in nature.

What is something not many people know about you?

I was a creative director in the advertising and marketing world for many years before becoming a landscape designer.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced professionally?

Getting everyone who is involved in the process to understand the necessity and value of good design for every project.

Who do you most admire in the industry?

Contemporary designers Bernard Trainor of Ground Studio Landscapes and Scott Shrader for their restrained elegance and ability to seamlessly integrate the architecture into the natural landscape.

What inspired you to get into the industry? A love of plants from an early age followed by exploration of design, environmental psychology, cultural anthropology and natural sciences in college. It all came together in landscape architecture.

What’s the best part of your job? Interaction with people. I love meeting new clients, working with the team here at Cambium, other contractors and peer professionals. I’m definitely a “people person.”

What would you blow your money on? Aston Martin DB11. But I’d need a place to park it!

Who do you most admire in the industry? Piet Oudolf. His innovative use of perennials and grasses in a natural manner, carefully curated, can be stunningly beautiful.

What are you most proud of?

Building a business that has rewarded employees with a great work environment, engaging projects and just compensation. It is difficult at times, however, very rewarding.

What is your favorite phrase, slogan? “If you think you can, you will; if you think you can’t, you won’t.”

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Matthew Vasquez Michael Bernier Tim Moshier
Landscape Design Associate, Michael Glassman & Associates Sacramento, California
Design Director, Michael Bernier Design Los Angeles, California CEO, Cambium Inc. Seattle, Washington
What inspired you to get into the industry? I’ve always loved nature and had the desire to design, but the defining moment was in my first spring semester at junior college. The horticulture professor played a video about all the different fields that use horticulture in some way or form. Midway through it, the video spoke about landscape architecture/landscape design. It was that shining moment when I knew what I wanted to pursue.


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Today, Soake Pools proudly presents their groundbreaking pre-cast pools, transforming backyards into tranquil oases. With expert craftsmanship and meticulous tiling done in New Hampshire, the pool arrives finished on the inside, ready to be installed and completed, saving weeks to months of on site construction.

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Deborah Cole on Embracing Setbacks as Opportunities for Growth

Our success/failure measurement is constantly being redefined by society and our industry. Any consideration of it (as it applies to each of us) is as slippery a slope to examine as we might think. In the modern world, depending upon our goals, success might be defined as the number of “likes” on a social media page, the number of invitations to provide our services or simply the amount of the balance in one’s bank account. Although there are societal measurements, I would argue that success is for each individual to determine. Along with evaluating what is success, we must look at what might be classified as failure. Is it a low number of “likes” on social media, a phone that never rings or a bank balance that cannot support our lifestyle.

While society works diligently to dictate what is success and failure, only we should make that determination. Only we can define what is a status of “no win” as it pertains to us and/or our businesses. We all know the story of Thomas Edison and his 10,000 attempts at creating a successful lightbulb. In reframing the definition of failure, he said that he had not failed 10,000 times before success, he had “successfully found 10,000 ways that would not work.” He was able to reframe a situation to his advantage.

As entrepreneurs, by definition we set ourselves on a path fraught with risk. When we wake up in the morning, we never know

what the day will bring, even though we have planned meticulously. Having the grit to start a business, hiring unpredictable humans to work with us and learning a million and one new things are all courageous steps on our path, possibly leading to unexpected outcomes. When I started my business, my parents were so quick with the negative “but, what if” statements. It is surprising I took the risk. Yes, there were challenges and, yes, there were (at least) 10,000 learning opportunities. It was all worth it. Others who do not share our dreams may only see and feel fear of the unknown, anticipating failure as a reason not even to try. Because others own their own fears does not mean they must become ours.

Failure is a word that should be retired and removed from our vocabulary. Even though not meeting expectations will happen and there will be disappointments, we can look at these as links in the chain of our success. These situations are merely learning opportunities along the way to building our businesses and living our best lives.

Entrepreneurs love challenge. We may say that we are competitive and lovers of taking risks, but we are far more than that. We are courageous, optimistic and believers in possibility. Having such a mindset is crucial for success (or whatever term we personally wish to apply).

Using the retired term “failure,” we know that we must experience setbacks from time to time. It is essential that we embrace each one of them fully. We must acknowledge that it happened, examine where the wheels came off the bus, how our expectations weren’t met (were they not realistic?) and how we will forge ahead to learn from each of the encounters. We have all lost bids, jobs and/or contracts. At the time, the world might have seemed cloudy. But, without exception, there are lessons learned and often, upon reflection, gratitude that something happened exactly as it did.

I know that this attitude adjustment sounds like I am suggesting that we should live in a pink-frosted cupcake world that is not reality. But that is not the case. I do know that we live in a world that supports the courageous, the brave and the energetic. A loss can become a win with a reframe and a strength that serves us well as we grow as entrepreneurs in the best industry on the planet.

About Deborah Cole

Deborah Cole is the founder of a commercial landscape firm with multiple locations throughout Texas. She now devotes herself full-time to speaking, writing and consulting.

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Part I & Part II of Enhancing Client Onboarding & Project Efficiency in Landscape Design

Design consultations are tough, because in a short amount of time you have to establish yourself as an expert, show that you’re creative, organized and likable, set the framework for a respectful working relationship—and get the job. At Open Envelope Studio, we feel like we have a system in place that has a high track record for moving forward with clients but, more importantly, filtering who would be a good fit for our design process.

The first step is our consultation form. We have every prospective client, even if they’ve called to set up a consultation, fill out a form online. This ensures they’ve looked at examples of projects on our online portfolio, gives us pertinent information about their project and helps us stay organized and not lose track of client information. It also gets the client thinking about their wants and needs. And, lastly, they click a box that says they agree to pay our consultation fee, which in and of itself ensures the likelihood that clients are the type who value professional design.

When visiting the client’s house, we immediately set expectations of how the consultation will unfold to establish we’re leading the process and for the consult to move forward in a predictable way.

In our particular narrative, phase one is gathering information. Here is the chance to glean any and all info we can to know what we’re designing, who we’re designing for, what they need and their tastes. We encourage a stream of consciousness about all of the things that do and don’t work in their spaces. There is no wrong answer. This shows the client that we are capable of being good listeners and we value their input.

The next phase of the consultation is a chance to get the client excited about what their yard could be and by giving solutions they haven’t thought of. We ask for clarifications and get to the “why” on certain statements they made. This is a great time to take mental notes about what photos should be in your portfolio for further explanation. Don’t be afraid to get a bit technical here with municipal codes or best practices. It’s good to show your aptitude, but be sure to stay solution-oriented; clients can become overwhelmed if they hear a laundry list of things the city won’t allow them to do.

At this point, we head inside to go over process using our portfolio. Having a printed portfolio is incredibly important as it’s been curated to facilitate our consultation narrative. We find examples of design opportunities discussed in the

walkthrough. It is critical to have professional photos so that your work sells itself. Think quality over quantity here. Our portfolio contains examples of both design proposals and estimates to rip the bandaid off about price, so it’s a handy tool to organically dive into the tough conversation of budgets vs. design scope.

The last part of the consultation phase is the follow-up email. It includes all of our notes, which makes the client feel heard, but also is a great reference for when we get to their design as we move through our queue so scope doesn’t fall through the cracks. We attach a design proposal and have a link to a post-consultation form, which gives the client a chance to add anything we may have missed—or if the family talked about anything after the consult—and allows for a categorization of nice-to-have wants and must-have needs.

Our consultation process as a whole establishes that not only are we creative enough to envision an emotionally impactful design, but also that we are professional enough to organize all of the facets of a complex project. We think you’ll find that putting thought into the system that surrounds every step of onboarding can empower you beyond the hard sell to make a genuine connection with people, which is the foundation of a healthy project. SYNKD West Summer 2023 24


In our last article, we talked about consultations. Let’s assume you got the job—what’s next? Every landscape design starts with making a base map. A base map is similar to a survey, but it documents changes in grade, existing plants, relevant architecture, property lines and a slew of other site conditions and constraints. There is real pressure to cut corners at this stage, because clients often voice their preference that billable time is spent toward the design. But we’re firm believers that an accurate and detailed base map is worth the investment and the effort, because it will both help your business grow and make jobs more efficient.

When we started out, we utilized surveys, hand-measurements and photos to piece together a crude representation of the site. Our goal was to get to the build phase as soon as possible and the only drawing we produced was a 2D plan to scale. (We occasionally produced 3D vignettes in Sketchup.) The lack of specificity of our designs required daily

site visits to react to the realities of slope, trees, drainage and gaps in documentation. This worked for a few years because our projects were small and simple, and our low volume of work allowed us to make site visits to provide guidance. As time passed, we generated a long backlog because our current method did not allow for very many jobs at once.

We soon realized that if we created more detailed drawings, the need for site visits could be drastically reduced. To do this, we needed a highly detailed representation of the site from which to design. At that point, we began to explore solutions from the construction industry like transits, zip levels and rotary lasers. We identified that certain measurements were critical to a design on every project, like tree flares and door thresholds, and

these tools were great with accurately measuring these key points. We saw a huge leap in job efficiency because we avoided the common scenario of stalled contractors awaiting designer’s guidance on unanticipated site conditions. Clients also appreciated smoother projects with fewer change orders and uncertainties. Fine-tuning this process generated business growth, and we found ourselves taking on projects of greater complexity and size.

Collecting and documenting accurate and detailed information has played a large role in our firm’s success. At this moment, we find ourselves undertaking our most challenging projects to date. We’ve been looking toward emerging technologies to streamline both the process of collecting data and conveying design ideas to clients, which we’ll talk about in our next article.

Phone: (512) 925-0155


www. synkd .io 25 SYNKD West Summer 2023 synkd | our community
All Photos courtesy of ©Open Envelope Studio FAULKNER RESIDENCE 2D MASTER PLAN




inspirational works





Transforming a Desert Landscape into a Tuscany Paradise

When the ambitious real estate couple set their sights on a property in picturesque Sedona, Arizona, they knew they had found the canvas for their dream home. However, they needed a visionary to bring their ideas to life and create a landscape design that would seamlessly blend with the natural beauty of the desert surroundings. Enter John Leslie, the mastermind behind JSL Landscape, whose expertise and passion for design would soon transform this property into a

and infuse it into the landscape while incorporating the architectural features of the house. John Leslie, owner, designer, and project manager of JSL Landscape, would orchestrate the intricate construction process, leaving no stone unturned in the pursuit of perfection. With a swimming pool and spa, outdoor kitchen, observation deck, fireplace, koi pond, pergola, landscape lighting and fountains on the agenda, the challenge was set, and the journey began.

For John, the first step was to truly

essence of the property. The clients’ vision was clear, but it took John’s expertise and creative prowess to bring it to life. Day after day, he tirelessly poured over design concepts, carefully considering the style of the house, the desired additions, and the inherent beauty of the desert landscape. After an intense month of design work, the vision became a reality—a comprehensive landscape design that embodied the spirit of Tuscany and seamlessly integrated with the natural surroundings.

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the build. JSL Landscape took charge of masonry, lighting, irrigation and planting, while the pool contractor handled the magnificent pool, spa and koi pond. The general contractor, on the other hand, took charge of the outdoor kitchen, pergola and observation deck. Coordinating these various elements, managing underground utilities, navigating excavation works and ensuring permits and inspections were meticulously handled was no small feat. But John’s meticulous attention to detail during the planning stage ensured a harmonious and seamless progression.

Over the course of eight months, the vision unfolded before everyone’s eyes. The Mediterranean influence was beautifully maintained throughout, with the addition of Tuscan columns for the pergola and the elegant Cantera Stone gracing the pool deck. But the true pièce de résistance was the mesmerizing view of the surrounding mountains, visible from every corner of the landscape. To further enhance the enchantment, lighting was thoughtfully installed, ensuring that the outdoor space was a captivating haven for entertainment and relaxation.

John, however, knows that the construction process often brings unexpected opportunities for improvement. He encourages flexibility and open communication, allowing for adjustments and changes as the project unfolds.

This collaborative approach fosters an atmosphere of creativity, ensuring that the final result surpasses even the wildest expectations.

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Bringing a design to life should be flexible & fun for both the designer & the clients.

Upon completion of the project, the clients celebrated their new outdoor haven, inviting John to revel in the fruits of their labor. The joy and satisfaction were palpable as guests marveled at the oasis that now adorned the previously barren landscape. Word of John’s exceptional work quickly spread, resulting in two more design and build jobs for JSL Landscape. The transformation of the back yard into a formal Tuscan paradise amidst the desert setting stands as a testament to the skill, dedication and unwavering commitment of the entire team involved.

As the sun sets over the Tuscan-inspired landscape, casting a warm glow on the elegant columns and trickling fountains, it is evident that John Leslie and his team have achieved something truly remarkable. With their visionary design, meticulous planning and unwavering passion, they have created an enchanting oasis where dreams come to life.


Owner of JSL Landscape Design Build


Phone: (480) 246–1400 SYNKD West Summer 2023 30


Brian Linson Brings His Eclectic Style to Landscapes in the Northwest

Growing up in rural Washington, Brian Linson’s love of nature and the outdoors began at an early age. When he was seven years old, his parents sectioned off a portion of their property and told him it was his to do with what he wanted. He began taking gravel from the driveway and creating winding roads for his Tonka trucks and using cuttings from his

mother’s plants to make the side of his roads more aesthetically pleasing. Eventually, he grew out of playing with trucks, but the love of growing and creating stayed with him.

Over the years, Brian’s career has included many diverse opportunities from nurseries and public gardens to home construction and remodeling. The

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work rivals even the biggest companies in the industry. “Quality without compromise” is their motto, and it’s obviously something they take to heart.

A customer contacted Brian a few years ago with the desire to complete a large landscaping project on her property. “When we start meeting with a new client, we have to take what they want and what their dreams are and we have to fine-tune that until we reach where their dreams and where their budget meets,” says Brian. This particular customer had a lot of big dreams and a large area to work with, which allowed Brian’s imagination to run free. Putting his ideas into a proposal with the expectation to have to downsize for budgetary limitations, he was pleasantly surprised when the client told him to proceed as designed. “What happened is I gave them a big scope for a lot of really imaginative things and she basically just said, ‘Let’s do it,’” Brian added.

The initial phase included the firepit construction, a seating area, roughly an acre of landscaping, pathways and the water feature. Like many projects, this one required some changes to be implemented after construction had begun. The original

water feature design, for instance, was changed to flow around the firepit area to create more of an island feel. “We presented [the change] to the client after we had already broken ground and she loved the idea,” says Brian.

The process of selecting plants for the landscape design started with finding the

client’s likes and dislikes regarding colors, personal aesthetic preferences and if there are any plants to avoid due to allergies. “We have a pretty vast knowledge about plantings and what works and what doesn’t in our area especially. I will walk through our nursery and kind of pick out everything that I think will work well together. We like to

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layer things. We like to have different textures and different colors and really try to provide year-round interest. Throughout the year, there are things that are blooming. It never really has any length of time where it gets stagnant or boring,” Brian shares.

With a style described as “eclectic Northwest,” Brian likes to incorporate unique and unexpected plantings that also complement one another. He says, “We like to do a lot of random things that are maybe a little bit out of the ordinary but that work well together.” For this location, he chose a spectrum of beautiful colors, including the greens, reds and golds of the Karl Foerster Feather Reed grass, Japanese Blood grass and Mexican Feather grass. The Japanese and Sunset maples add some height and vibrance to draw the eye upward, while Russian sage, rosemary, and lavender, along with a plethora of other plants, add interest and depth to the lower areas. While BL Landscapes usually offers a year of maintenance services on projects of this size, Brian’s ultimate goal is for the design to require minimal long-term upkeep for the homeowner.

As phase one was being completed, the client approached Brian with the desire to add a vegetable garden. Taking into consideration the local wildlife, he knew the design would have to be deer and rabbitproof. Sketching out ideas, he came up with a fenced-in, raised-bed garden that is consistent in appearance with the existing features of the property. The client purchased a high-quality shed kit from Wayfair, which Brian’s team constructed and added to the space. The cohesiveness of the addition makes it feel like it was a part of the original design all along.

The project wasn’t without its challenges, however, with the biggest issues being groundwater and rain runoff. The client’s house sits lower on the property so during the initial construction phase, Brian’s team installed a French drain system in an attempt to prevent standing water. After landscaping was added, the water was trapped at the end of the water feature SYNKD West Summer 2023 34 synkd | inspirational works

with nowhere to flow. To alleviate this issue, a large section of the garden had to be torn out and a French drain system was extended past the existing landscaping.

Another issue that Brian faced was string algae growth in the water feature. Due to the surface area and the amount of direct sunlight it got each day, the conditions were perfect for the algae to multiply. Brian says, “[It] was something we hadn’t really dealt with before, even after all of these years of doing water features. It was definitely a huge challenge.” He used trial and error to try to find a permanent solution to the problem. The algae was eventually removed by adding an ionizer to the water. “[Ionizer] completely eradicated all the string algae in the system,” says Brian. “It was really nice because it was a totally organic cure for the problem. It didn’t involve any chemicals. [The water feature] just runs and runs all year round, even in the winter, and we have no more problems with the string algae.”

Although the project began four years ago and has been done in phases, the total time BL Landscapes actually spent on the job site is only about five months. With additions over the years like landscape lighting, a playground area, garden expansions and a pathway upgrade from gravel to pavers, the property continues to evolve in beauty and functionality to meet the changing needs of the customer and her family. Customer satisfaction is BL Landscapes’ top priority and even with the unexpected challenges, they were successfully able to make their client’s dream come true.

Phone: (360) 632–7121

www. synkd .io 35 SYNKD West Summer 2023 synkd | inspirational works


Tree of Life Landscapes Transformed A Suburban Lawn Into A Sustainable Garden

Step into a world where nature’s beauty intertwines with sustainable living. Tree of Life Landscapes, a visionary company based in Colorado, has been leading the charge in redefining the concept of outdoor spaces. By embracing locallysourced materials and native plants, they have breathed life into commercial and residential areas, creating sustainable landscapes that stand tall against the test of time.

Since their establishment in 1998, Tree of Life Landscapes has sought to bring the captivating essence of Colorado’s natural wonders into people’s homes. Emily SYNKD West Summer 2023 36

Maeda, the vice president and designer, shares her passion for incorporating the stunning flora that thrives in Colorado’s unique environment.

“When we decided to start a company, I was really excited about native plants that do well in Colorado and thinking about how to incorporate the beauty of the natural world around us into people’s homes,” she says. Emily envisions a world where native plants not only thrive, but also grace our surroundings, turning ordinary spaces into breathtaking havens.

But the journey doesn’t end with design; education is key. Understanding the desires and dreams of clients is where the magic happens. Tree of Life Landscapes takes the time to comprehend their clients’ aspirations, translating them into tangible plans that exceed expectations. Explaining the importance of water conservation and the building of resilient plant communities in the arid West, they create designs that not only satisfy aesthetic cravings, but also contribute to the greater sustainability of the region.

One remarkable project that showcases their expertise took place in June 2018 in Longmont, Colorado. A homeowner sought their help in transforming a typical Kentucky bluegrass lawn into an enchanting, low-maintenance meadow bursting with wildflowers and grasses, accented by elegant stone pathways. This captivating space embraces the true essence of Colorado’s landscape, featuring the deep red hues of pineleaved penstemon, the majestic purples of woodland sage, the moody hues of blue oat grass, the vibrant red and white

of Jupiter’s beard and the warm allure of Orange Carpet hummingbird trumpet vine. The result is a symphony of colors and textures that delights the eye and

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invites pollinators and birds to dance in harmony with nature.

Beyond its visual allure, this sustainable garden embodies a deep-rooted commitment to water conservation and ecological balance. Previously, the front yard consumed excessive amounts of water, demanding weekly mowing and constant fertilization. Through this transformative project, Tree of Life Landscapes achieved the ultimate goal of reducing the reliance on grass while creating a breathtaking landscape that defies conventional notions of beauty.

With meticulous attention to detail, the team reshaped the terrain, carefully working around existing trees to preserve their natural grandeur. The installation of an irrigation system and the incorporation of hardscaping materials, such as Colorado red sandstone, seamlessly integrated functionality and aesthetics. The sloped path to the front door, once hidden in a dark hallway, was skillfully transformed into a larger landing that expands the perceived space and welcomes visitors with open arms. SYNKD West Summer 2023 38

The true beauty of this sustainable garden lies not only in its visual splendor, but also in its ease of maintenance. With minimal mowing required, the clippings themselves become nourishing mulch, contributing to the garden’s vitality. It is through this approach that Tree of Life Landscapes cultivates a sense of stewardship, recognizing that a wellthought-out design and resilient plant choices result in landscapes that thrive with minimal intervention.

Inspired by the success of the front yard transformation, the client entrusted Tree of Life Landscapes to remove the lawn from her back yard as well. Here, mature trees cast their graceful shadows, calling for shade-tolerant plants. With the sod gone, a fresh palette of lush greens breathed new life into the space. A captivating red flagstone pathway meanders through the garden beds, leading to a cozy cafe area, inviting moments of tranquility, while also incorporating many of the same plants from the front yard for cohesivity.

For Tree of Life Landscapes, plants hold immense power within landscapes. As Emily eloquently expresses, “We believe that plants are the power of landscapes. They are what convey emotion and are able to capture people’s fancy and remind them of beautiful places they’ve been previously.”

This belief fuels their dedication to creating breathtaking outdoor spaces that evoke a deep connection with nature, transporting individuals to cherished memories and awe-inspiring destinations.



Phone: (303) 246–6946

www. synkd .io 39 SYNKD West Summer 2023 inspirational works


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For almost a century, the benefits of horticulture as a therapeutic modality have been proven and documented by the medical community. Universities now offer graduate and postgraduate degrees in the field, and the American Horticultural Therapy Association promotes the practice nationwide. Although not as well-known, topiary can provide the same outcomes as gardening and other therapeutic horticulture practices. Mike Gibson, an award-winning topiary artist, is hoping to shine a light on how the art can be used to help individuals overcome challenges they face, both mentally and physically.

When Mike was just seven years old, he found his ability to function in a traditional classroom environment was impacted by an ADHD diagnosis. He struggled to meet the demands placed on him at school and began exploring topiary as a creative outlet. With the encouragement and guidance of his artist father, he looked forward to the

weekend when he could use his shears to create something unique, free from the rules and expectations of others. Although his diagnosis was looked at as a negative in school, it became an asset in the art of topiary, where he could let his mind wander in the world of creativity. Perfecting his self-taught skills and gaining the attention of neighbors, he gradually grew his clientele and created a lucrative side business that eventually morphed into a full-time career. Little did he know at that time, but topiary had become more than a business opportunity for him. It had become a SYNKD West Summer 2023 42
Mike Gibson Brings the Art of Topiary to the Greater Public

coping mechanism for the stresses of life—one that he continues to utilize today. Mike says, “[School] was such a struggle … I would go to school during the week and, on the weekend, I had the chance to cultivate my skills and hone in on my passion. That is what grounded me, that is what helped me calm down. And still to this day, if I’m getting too distracted or something, it is beneficial for me to step outside and start trimming some bushes to just calm down. Even cleaning my shears is therapeutic.”

American Public Garden Association’s annual conference in June.

His message is that topiary is for everyone to enjoy and not just the wealthy and elite, as many believe.

does topiary improve individuals’ mental health, the physical act of trimming and pruning plants can also improve mobility in the fingers and hands.

To bring more awareness to topiary and its therapeutic benefits, Mike feels it is important to offer it as an elective in all schools, particularly the inner-city schools where 4-H and agricultural programs may not be offered. The hands-on approach of such programs has been proven to benefit all children but may be especially beneficial to those with ADHD and who have difficulty in traditional learning environments.

“There are millions of kids that have never heard or know anything about gardening or even anything about horticulture now, but to learn topiary at a young age is pivotal to human success,” he says. “If all kids learned about topiary, it could change a generation.”

Drawing from his personal experiences as well as the widespread mental health crisis during the COVID-19 pandemic, Mike knew he needed to make topiary available as a therapeutic tool to the public. He started his topiary as therapy workshops in 2022, presenting them all over the country at botanical gardens, nurseries, art museums and corporations. He is scheduled as a presenter at the

After a brief history of the art of topiary and creative pruning instruction, workshop attendees then have the opportunity to become artists. Equipped with an evergreen plant (either an Emerald Green Arborvitae, Yaupon Holly or Compacta Holly), a pair of Niwaki topiary shears and one-on-one support from Mike, they are free to design and create their very own topiary. People walk through the doors feeling doubtful of their abilities, expecting failure, and leave filled with pride at their accomplishments. Through topiary, attendees learn the core qualities of self-empowerment, confidence and patience, all skills that can be applied to every aspect of life. Not only

“This topiary therapy workshop is something that is going to help [people] relieve their stress and help with their mental and creative process, but also their overall health and wellness,” Mike says. He hopes to be a positive voice for how topiary should be accessible so everyone can reap the therapeutic benefits it has to offer. “Not a lot of people are looking at topiary as an art form and as a therapeutic measure to help them heal,” says Mike. “And [it] can be both. I’m trying to let the world know that topiary is nice and aesthetically [pleasing] to look at but it’s also a great tool that you can use to help heal yourself. I don’t know where I would be without topiary.”

If you are interested in booking a topiary therapy workshop, contact Mike Gibson with Gibson Works LLC at

www. synkd .io 43 SYNKD West Summer 2023
of Gibson Works LLC.
(330) 406–9360
I think topiary has proven throughout time that it is a catalyst to healing , a catalyst to creativity .
Mike Gibson Owner


Bruce Allentuck knows a thing or two about the landscaping industry. He was just a junior at North Carolina State when he founded Allentuck Landscaping, where he has served as president for more than 37 years. Based in Maryland with more than 30 employees on staff, his company serves residential clients with their landscape design, build and maintenance needs. But instead of resting on his laurels, Bruce continues to innovate and make the industry better. He’s recently built two tech companies to help professional landscapers across the country.

His most recent project is My Landscape Academy, an online training program that highlights safety, equipment and various landscape processes.

“My Landscape Academy was actually started for our own landscape company because we needed a way to train our staff better and faster,” says Bruce. “I looked around the marketplace and didn’t see anything that really fit our needs.”

Already having experience running, an online plant guide and directory, Bruce decided to create his own online training program. After using it internally, he shared the program with a few peers in the industry, and they loved it.

“They encouraged me to bring it to market and, with their help, we laid out what the program should look like,” Bruce says.

Nine months ago, they launched My Landscape Academy, which is specifically designed for employees who are new to the industry with no prior landscape experience.

So far, more than 40 training lessons are offered in both English and Spanish and can be viewed online and even from a cellphone. Topics range from how to wear personal safety equipment to using a core aerator, planting ground cover, applying mulch, installing gravel beds and identifying poison ivy—just to name a few. Employees get rewarded for each level they complete, before taking on more complicated issues as they progress through the program. SYNKD West Summer 2023 44
My Landscape Academy Offers Online Lessons for Landscaping Neophytes Bruce Allentuck

Many training modules can be accessed for free, but for the full program, landscape companies pay a fee based on the number of users at their firm. Bruce says another perk to using My Landscape Academy is that it puts everyone on the same page.

“I like things done a particular way in my company, and that’s what we’re teaching,” he says.

Allentuck Landscaping’s top way of recruiting is through word of mouth from their own employees, who many times bring in personnel with no experience.

“We have our own recruiting funnel,

employees with husbands and wives, fathers and sons, who come work for us and they know from the beginning what to expect,” Bruce says.

So far, feedback from other users has been positive and most of the lessons translate to other regions of the country, although Bruce admits all material might not translate to everyone.

He continues to work on developing content and is currently launching level three, with plans to do two or three more after that. He says he’s grateful for peers in the industry who continue to use and trial the program for him.

“I love getting feedback, both the good and the ugly,” Bruce says. “I want users to tell me what they think and what needs to happen. And if business owners ask to see a module on a certain topic, we’ll add it if it sounds like a good idea.”

While creating something new can be frustrating, Bruce says all the extra effort has been worth it.

“The giant companies have their own training platforms and it works for them, but I think there’s still an unlimited market,” he says. “We’ve invested quite a bit.”

In the end, Bruce says My Landscape Academy is about trying to help companies grow their businesses better and faster, and the key to that success is through educating and developing the workforce.

“There are so many companies that need help and so many owners trying to figure out how to make their lives easier,” says Bruce.


Allentuck Landscaping


www. synkd .io 45 SYNKD West Summer 2023
The only way to make your life easier is by training your people . We hope that My Landscape Academy can eliminate a lot of headaches.
It’s important to give employees recognition for a job well done .
Outdoor Living. European Style. Add an elegant louvered pergola to compliment the rest of your design/build landscape project. Your clients will thank you. Become a Dealer Exclusive dealerships are available within these regions: • Pacific Northwest • Central Plains • Gulf States Scan for Info California: 925.822.8000 Texas: 817.562.6000 Nevada: 775.499.1000 Colorado: 720.647.8000 Florida: 239.399.8000 Arizona: 602.421.7000 Office Locations


Every business goes through changes. As you grow, you need to add divisions or departments. You need to bring in additional leadership or change your software to something more robust or affordable.

You can go about this one of two ways: As a leader, you can make a unilateral decision and expect your team to live with it, or you can thoughtfully plan out your steps to keep your team engaged.

One path leads to resentment and turnover. The other path helps you succeed and thrive.

What is Change Management?

So what do I mean by “change management?” Change management is the process of implementing major changes to the structure or workflow of your business in such a way that your team willingly agrees to implement the change.

Said more simply, it’s how you handle the changes your business needs in a healthy way.

The first step to successful change management is simply recognizing that you can screw this up and that such an error can damage your business.

Why Should I Care?

There’s a lot at stake when changes are executed poorly. According to the Harvard Business Review, 70 percent of change initiatives fail. Those are betting odds that most businesses will screw this up.

When changes fail, several things happen (all of them bad) to your business. Primarily, you lose the trust of your workforce. This causes fear, which leads to

grumbling, gossip and loss of enthusiasm for the work.

You also build resentment among your workers and managers. They become disillusioned and frustrated when they’re not consulted or included in the

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change management process. They may ultimately start looking for a workplace that shows them this type of respect.

These things lead to higher turnover during a poorly executed change, which hurts your bottom-line profitability in two ways. First, you have increased recruiting and training costs. When you experience turnover, you obviously incur expenses for your business. If you’re savvy enough to track and manage these expenses, you know exactly how much it costs to recruit and train a new employee to the point where they’re producing billable hours. That number increases (sometimes exponentially) if you lose a manager or executive rather than a front-line worker. Secondly, you have diminished capacity to produce the work you’ve sold, causing longer lead times (backlogs) and less billable work being completed. With fewer hands to complete the jobs you’ve sold and fewer crew leaders and managers to supervise that work, your ability to deliver on jobs you’ve sold is drastically reduced. This leads to overtime (and burnout) for your remaining employees, longer wait times for customers expecting you to complete a job and fewer invoices being sent.

In short, your expenses go up while your cash flow is pinched. Never a recipe for a healthy business.

Do I have your attention now?

How do you avoid this? You can implement steps to encourage your team’s participation (rather than resistance) in the proposed change. Managing your team and their expectations properly during these changes will pay massive dividends for you once the change is completed. Properly executed change management can even help your team feel empowered and trusted. It can increase engagement and satisfaction at work.

The No. 1 Rule

We’ll dive into this in the next article in this series, but here’s a small preview, and the most important thing to remember when considering a change in your business:

You must be solving an actual business problem. Don’t make changes unilaterally or simply based on your workflow preferences.

Changing a workflow, company structure or software simply out of preference isn’t good enough. You must solve a commonly recognized problem in the business.

improve your problem with efficiency. Your team, however, talks to you about how your routing is awful, and you could cut down on waste by improving that function first.

The point is that those doing the work daily recognize a problem. It’s just not the problem you thought. You are trying to solve a problem (efficiency) your way when that’s not the true problem. Your team members are already very efficient in the field, but the routing is the issue.

Talk to your team, discover the real issues and use the change management steps I will outline in the following articles to implement lasting solutions for your business.

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Dylan Harper Explains How to Utilize Marketing During an Uncertain Economy

With rising interest rates, whispers of recession and increased labor and material costs, it’s safe to say we are navigating an uncertain economy.

A common reflex for businesses is to cut attention and resources from marketing during economic volatility, but as unconventional as it sounds, marketing must become a greater priority for green industry businesses that want to continue growing during such times.

With insights from landscape business coach and consultant Jeffrey Scott, let’s explore a few practical actions green industry businesses should take while marketing in today’s economy.

Focus on High-Level Marketing Metrics

Given its rapidly evolving complexity coupled with the pressures of economic turbulence, marketing can be difficult to leverage for teams with little marketing experience or do-it-yourselfers.

business owners against focusing only on the marketing flavor of the week and recommends they take a step back to look at the big picture.

Focusing on these high-level marketing metrics will give business owners the clarity and big-picture view needed to make more effective marketing decisions:

• Return on Investment (ROI)

Revenue earned per dollar spent. *Can’t calculate for some campaigns.

• Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) What is spent to earn a new customer

• Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)

Total revenue a customer creates over time SYNKD West Summer 2023 50
Jeffrey Scott cautions green industry
The first order of business, they need to know what’s working & what’s not, so they can do more of what works .

Prioritize Key Services and Customer Types

Businesses often find that the metrics described in the previous section vary among the services they offer and the types of customers they serve.

For example, some services may contribute to a higher CLV than others, while customers with certain needs or preferences might require a lower CAC than others.

During economic volatility, businesses should put their marketing resources behind promoting services and targeting customers that best serve their strategic needs (e.g. improving cash flow, increasing profitability, building route density, etc.).

Cross-Sell to Existing Customers

Businesses can capture low-hanging fruit by growing existing accounts. It’s easier

and CHEAPER to sell services to existing customers because a relationship is already established.

“Ironically,” Jeffrey Scott reveals, “many customers aren’t aware of the additional services a business offers and are often buying from the competition.” This is why he encourages his clients to advertise to existing customers as much as they do to potential customers.

and direct calls to promote services to customers since the contact information is already in their CRM. Jeffrey Scott shares how one of his top landscaping clients experiences massive returns from frequently advertising to existing customers using email marketing.

Do More Not Less

If there’s one thing you can take away from reading this, it should be that marketing in an uncertain economy requires more thought, effort and persistence than marketing in a stable one.


Owner of Forge Marketing Group LLC

Phone: (678) 904–5474

Businesses can use cheaper, more direct advertising techniques like email marketing, text message marketing


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